|The Bengal Tiger
Fighting for a slice of earth to call its own
Editor’s Note: At the turn of the 20th century, over 100 years ago, there were over 100,000 tigers living in the wild, in an area that spanned most of eastern and southern Asia. Today fewer than 7,500 tigers remain in the wild, and of the eight subspecies of tiger, three are already extinct. In China there are only a few dozen South China Tigers left; in Siberia only a few hundred Siberian Tigers are left; in Indonesia, only a few hundred Sumatran Tigers still live in the wild.
Encouraging progress towards safeguarding tiger habitat has been made, if not, certainly these three most endangered subspecies would already be extinct, and the other two would be far closer to extinction. But groups such as WildAid, who sponsors education campaigns to discourage consumer demand for tiger parts, as well as organizes operations to hunt down and prosecute tiger poachers, have been effective in slowing the rate of tiger slaughter.
When one considers the habitat of tigers, intersecting with some of the most densely populated regions on earth – southeast China, India, Sumatra – the fact that the tiger does still endure is testament to the resilience of this species as well as to the myriad of efforts by conscientious humans to preserve some remnants of these majestic animals.
In very recent years however the decline of the tigers has accelerated again. Population growth, economic growth, and growing international turmoil threaten to once again make preserving the tiger a lower priority. But once the tigers are gone, they can never come back. Against this momentum there can be no rest. There are dozens of effective international organizations and tens of thousands of dedicated people who are fighting to save the tiger. With eternal vigilance, we may yet see this noble species rebound. – Ed Ring
Humans admire tigers as much as they fear them, and the animals figure prominently in Asian myths, religion, arts, and imagination.
Tigers were once found throughout the forested regions of tropical and temperate Asia. Excessive hunting and destruction of tiger habitat have now narrowed the tiger’s range to a few isolated patches. According to estimates, at the beginning of the 20th century over 100,000 tigers flourished throughout Asia, from eastern Russia and Korea through eastern and southern China, South-east Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and into Pakistan, with separate populations around the Caspian Sea and on the Indonesian islands of Bali, Java, and Sumatra. But less than 20% of todays tiger habitat is located in national parks or other protected areas, which means that the majority of the areas where tigers live could be lost to other uses.
|A Bengal Tiger in captivity
Are their days numbered, living in the wild?
Large carnivore populations like tigers are highly vulnerable to extinction in small and isolated reserves. According to a recent study, tiger habitats worldwide have shrunk 40% in the past decade – they now reside only in 7% of their historic range – and their survival depends on cracking down on poaching, working to reduce conflicts with humans, and protecting key ranges. This landmark study, produced by some of the world’s leading tiger scientists at theWorld Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Save The Tiger Fund, calls for specific international actions to safeguard remaining populations. The worldwide tiger population has steadily declined to about 7,500 globally, and the big cats continue to face many threats including the trade in tiger parts to meet demand for traditional medicines in China and South-east Asia.
The study, entitled “Setting Priorities for the Conservation and Recovery of the World’s Tigers 2005-2015,” identified for the first time 76 areas, mostly in Asia, that have the best chance of supporting tiger populations. Large carnivore populations like tigers are highly vulnerable to extinction in small and isolated reserves. About half of the 76 areas can support 100 tigers and “offer excellent opportunities for the recovery of wild tiger populations.” Researchers are focusing on few key regions in India, Russia’s far east and parts of South-east Asia. The group’s key conclusion from the study is that to safeguard the remaining tigers, increased protection of the 20 highest priority tiger conservation landscapes is required. The group also stands ready to support the 13 countries with tigers in a regional effort to save the species.
Conservation efforts have so far helped stabilize certain tiger populations, but many initiatives were “ad hoc” and “did little to stem the crisis,” the study found. Tiger breeding areas must be protected and efforts to link different tiger habitats need to be improved, as per the study. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, tiger conservation requires commitment from local groups, governments, and international donors to “bring the species back to all parts of its biological range.” Groups said authorities must curb the demand for the skins and parts of tigers, and other Asian big cats as also strengthen enforcement efforts along trade routes.
In the words of an official at the WWF-UK, “as tiger range spans borders, so must tiger conservation. Asia’s economic growth must not come at the expense of tiger habitat and the natural capital it protects.”
Reprinted with permission. This article was previously published in TerraGreen, edited by R.K. Pachauri and published every two weeks. TerraGreen, headquartered in New Delhi, India, is an online magazine that reports on sustainable development, forestry, power and energy conservation, biotechnology, pollution and climate change, and on people trying to make a difference. For further information, contact: Editor, TerraGreen, TERI, Darbari Seth Block, IHC Complex, Lodhi Road, New Delhi, India. Telephone 91-11-2468-2100, 11 Ext. 2421/2422, Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
INFORMATION ABOUT TIGERS AND HOW TO HELP THE TIGERS SURVIVE:
Turn in Tiger Poachers: Contact information is provided on the Forever Tigers website including agencies to contact to turn in Tiger poachers; click here:
Map of Tiger Ranges: From the World Wildlife Fund website a map showing original and current 2006 ranges of Tigers; click here:
Photographs & Information on Tigers & Other Big Cats:
EcoWorld – Big Cats
GROUPS ACTIVELY HELPING TIGERS TO SURVIVE:
Wildlife Conservation Society
Centre for Wildlife Studies
823, 13th Cross,
7th Block West, Jayanagar,
Bangalore, 560 082, India
Email : email@example.com
The Corbett Foundation
405 International Trade Tower, Nehru Place,
New Delhi, 110 019, India
WildAid – India/WPSI
D 923 New Friends Colony (2nd floor)
New Delhi, 110 065, India
WildAid – China
Beijing Gateway Building, Suite 1202
No. 10 Yabao Road, Chao Yang District
Beijing, 100020, China
Save China’s Tigers
P.O. Box No. 4877
General Post Office, Hong Kong
Save The Tiger Fund
1120 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 900
Washington DC, 20036, USA
The Tiger Foundation
Suite 1780 – 999 West Hastings St.
Vancouver, British Columbia, V6C 2W2, Canada
INFORMATION ABOUT THE EIGHT SUBSPECIES OF TIGERS:
Source: The Tiger Foundation
Panthera tigris corbetti
(1,000-1,500 survive in the wild)
Panthera tigris sumatrae
(400-500 survive in the wild)
South China Tiger
Panthera tigris amoyensis
(less than 50 survive in the wild)
Panthera tigris tigris
(3,000-4,500 survive in the wild)
Panthera tigris altaica
(about 500 survive in the wild)
Panthera tigris balica
Panthera tigris sondaica
Panthera tigris virgata